“Somewhere in the world, we all have at least one person
who looks exactly like us.”
Melissa Doyle, Sunday Night, 18 August 2019
Last night the television program Sunday Night aired an interesting segment discussing the notion that each of us isn’t the only person on the planet who looks exactly like us – something she refers to as a doppelganger. Doppelgangers are non-biologically related ‘twins’ of ourselves, though usually a doppelganger has a negative connotation – that the doppelganger is an evil or ghostly twin. Not in this case though.
Sunday Night’s segment on dopplegangers shows how confusing similar looking people in photos can be. There are many fascinating pairs of doppelganger in this broadcast (which you can see using the 7Plus link in the reference below). It is captivating to see how alike people can look. It also seemed an ideal opportunity to demonstrate simple ways to distinguish between individuals in photos and work out if they are or are not the same person. So what can you look for?
The ‘ears’ have itIn this example, former President Barak Obama (right) seems to have a twin. But in the briefest of glances an aware photo viewer can see that they are not the same person just by looking at the ears. The man on the left has strongly attached earlobes, while Obama has completely free (unattached) earlobes. Barring any accident or damage to the ear, ear shape is purely genetically dictated, and, since ears are complex and variable, ear shape is often different from person to person, and one of the easiest ways to rule out people in photos as matching – it’s not the same person if their ears don’t match!
Face size matters
But what if the ears aren’t visible or don’t help you identify or rule out the identity of the person in the photo? Look a bit more closely at the size of the face. In these photos of John (left) and Neal (right), it is easy to see that John’s face is almost 10% longer than Neal’s face:
Shape and Colour
But what if they seem to have similar sized heads, or you can’t see their ears as in the photo as in the photos of Niamh and Karen below? There are so many ways in which their faces look similar, especially with matching makeup and hair. How could you tell them apart?Well, have a look at their eyes. You’ll have to zoom in. Look at the differences: the eye colours are a bit different as Karen (right) has greener eyes than Niamh (left), and Niamh’s eyes are shaped differently (more almond shaped and sharper in the inner corners). This is easy to see if you look carefully, even though their eyebrows and lashes have been made up to look identical. The trick is to focus on and compare individual parts and aspects of a person’s face, rather than to view it as a whole.
Hopefully these simple tips will help you next time you’re trying to decide if that woman in a family photo is your Aunt Judy or your Aunt Evelyn!